How things have changed since Geoff Hurst scored his 1966 hat-trick!

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

Barry at World Cup

My first memory of the FIFA World Cup was in 1966 when I heard news on the radio about England beating West Germany 4-2 at Wembley. I was 14 years old and living in Johannesburg. Since TV hadn’t yet been introduced in South Africa, I received details of England’s victory from Springbok Radio (or possibly the BBC World Service broadcasting on shortwave). In the days that followed I read news reports about the game in The Rand Daily Mail, and was able to see blurry black-and-white photographs of England’s hat-trick scorer, Geoff Hurst, in action. A week or two after the event I eventually saw some of the action filmed by British Movietone News – in those days the news in pictures came in the form of a weekly news-reel shown in cinemas before the main attraction.

I recently read some of the details of the 1966 World Cup, and was fascinated to see that in the first round of that competition England, the host nation, played in a group of 4 with Mexico, Uruguay and France. Forty four years later at the 2010 World Cup, the first round sees South Africa, the host nation, playing in a group of 4 with – you guessed it! – Mexico, Uruguay and France. England went on to win. Is there an omen here for South Africa’s chances?

When one compares the 1966 tournament with the 2010 Cup taking place in South Africa, the amazing developments that we have witnessed in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) become clear.

Yesterday I went to watch Spain play Honduras at Ellis Park. I bought my tickets a few months ago on the Internet, paying for it online with my Visa credit card. I collected the ticket a few weeks ago by swiping my credit card at a ticket printing machine in Sandton. At the game my ticket – with a range of security features – was validated at a turnstile.

For those millions (or is it billions) of football fans unable to be at the match, it was broadcast live in high-definition to almost every country in the world. People are also able to have it streamed live to their PC, iPad or smart phone.

At the game a giant screen showed lots of fascinating statistics and great visual images. I was able to take 10 megapixel photographs with my pocket camera and email them to my friends from my cellphone.

Would I ever have imagined, as a 14 year old boy, sitting in Johannesburg listening to a distorted radio broadcast from London, that 44 years later I would be experiencing the World Cup – in Johannesburg – via all of this amazing technology. I definitely wouldn’t have expected that I would be rushing to publish this blog posting before settling down to watch South Africa play France on a flat-screen TV via my HD PVR!

In the distance I hear the blast of a vuvuzela. Not all progress is good!

Can South Africa also draw with Mexico in the software development game?

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

barry and mexicans

I was there – that’s me on the right with a group of Mexican football fans.

As the long awaited FIFA 2010 World Cup tournament – the first in Africa – kicked off, I was sitting in the crowd of 85,000 at Soccer City in Johannesburg. The opening match brought together Mexico and South Africa. Although my allegiance was obviously with my own Bafana Bafana team, I really enjoyed the bubbly enthusiasm of the thousands of Mexican fans at the stadium. As we got up to leave at the end of the match, relatively happy with the 1-1 draw, I was amazed that smiling Mexican fans came over to congratulate us and pose for pictures.

Being at the South Africa vs. Mexico match had a particular significance to the Software Engineer in me. In 2008 I lead a delegation on a software engineering study tour to Mexico City. The purpose of the visit was to find out more about the Mexican software industry and to see what lessons we in South Africa could learn.

One important insight was that while Mexico is richer and more populous than South Africa (it has a GDP three times larger, a population of over 100 million compared to South Africa’s ~48 million, and a gross national income (GNI) per capita of $14,000 compared to our $10,000), the two countries have software industries that are somewhat similar. Like South Africa, Mexico’s software industry has a challenge around finding enough skilled people. Both countries also have a mix of a handful of big companies developing software, and hundreds – or even thousands – of small companies.

Unlike South Africa, Mexico has a very clear government-backed strategy for growing its software sector. Our delegation attended the launch of the “Prosoft 2.0” programme. This is a scheme that provides something like $80 million per annum in matching funding for companies working to improve their ability to produce high quality software. One of the initiatives supported by Prosoft is a national PSP (personal software process) and TSP (team software process) rollout.

An important driver behind Prosoft is a strategy that aims to make “Mexico First” in terms of delivering the best quality software in the world. PSP/TSP is the methodology being adopted to achieve this.

Our visit to Mexico was largely to understand more about the PSP/TSP programme. We were hugely impressed by what we saw. On our return from the visit I set about starting up a PSP/TSP pilot in South Africa with financial support from the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti). This pilot started in July 2009 and – I’m pleased to say – is already showing great potential.

More about that in another blog posting – back to the World Cup and our match with Mexico. While the form-book says that Mexico should have hammered Bafana Bafana, we landed up acquitting ourselves wonderfully. The game was tough, but the result was fair.

Thinking about the Prosoft slogan “Mexico First”, maybe we should be saying that we – the South African software industry – should at least aim to tie the game at producing the best quality software in the world.

Can small development companies produce great software?

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky


Joe (not his real name) stuck it out in a 9-to-5 corporate job for nearly 7 years. He did his work as best he could … and got more and more frustrated. Everywhere he looked in his workplace he saw opportunities to do things better. He suggested innovative ways of doing things, but his managers had that “if-it-ain’t-REALLY-broke-don’t-fix-it” attitude of the corporate world. They weren’t interested in implementing Joe’s ideas.  Continue reading